Choosing to Challenge – International Women’s Day 2021

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Happy International Women’s Day.

For more than a hundred years, International Women’s Day has been recognised to highlight the achievements of women, progress in gender equality and as a reminder of what still needs to be done.

Over the past few weeks, I’ve been reflecting on and thinking about the women in my life, who have inspired me personally and professionally.

When I was younger, I always thought role models had to be famous people: singers, actors and people we all seen on the television. As I’ve grown up, I’ve realised that this isn’t the case – the best role models are regular folk, being their authentic selves every day.

Growing up, I was surrounded by a bubble of supportive and inspiring women – my mum and nana are two of the most influential women in my life. My mum taught me to never give up and always strive for good things but, more importantly, she taught me to be kind, to help others and always be honest. I lost my mum at a young age, but her wisdom and lessons continue with me and everyone who knew her, every day.

My nana is incredible in her own right. As the only female manager in a factory in the 1950s to 1980s, she was fiery, direct, and tough (people did not mess with her!) while being soft, generous, kind and overwhelmingly supportive of everyone around her. Now at the grand age of 91, she continues to inspire me to be more like her.

Unfortunately, it wasn’t always as easy to find female role models in my professional life. I worked in some toxic environments, your typical ‘boys club’, with uncomfortable moments being the only female in an organisation. However, as I’ve progressed with my career, I’ve learned the warning signs and I’m confident enough to say no to situations where I am not fully supported, regardless of my gender.

I’ve been working in the data and technology field for about six years now and I’ve met hundreds of incredible women throughout that time. There’s truly no lack of inspirational women in Scottish technology.

I’ve been fortunate to collaborate with data analysts, scientists, software engineers, women from all spectrums of the data scene, who are not only creating ripples within the area that they work- but who are also working hard to inspire and promote the next generation of women data professionals.

It’s not different at MBN. Our full Operations Team is run by women and it’s no exaggeration to say that without them, MBN wouldn’t be the success it is. If that’s true for us, it must be for so many other places. Which is why we’re so dedicated to encouraging more women to get involved in the data and technology fields.

Whether it’s through Talent4Point0 or my collaboration with the Data Lab, working on their Msc Placement Programme, I’ve collaborated with amazing women who are re-training and upskilling and have been able to take their first steps in their data or tech careers.

It’s been a privilege to watch the progression in their careers and to see the way they’ve helped grow businesses across the country and inspire other women to get involved. Of course, none of this is surprising. You, me, everyone knows what we’re capable of but this year it feels like we’re doing more than creating ripples in Scottish tech. It feels like those ripples are becoming a surge and for every one of us that succeeds, it creates the space for more amazing women to join us.

This year’s International Women’s Day theme is #ChooseToChallenge. Choose to challenge gender bias. Choose to challenge inequality. Choose to challenge the old ways and help bring in the new.

My hope for International Women’s Day this year is that #ChooseToChallenge is more than a rallying cry for the day – it’s something that everyone, not just women, live their lives by every day.

We can choose to seek out and celebrate women’s achievements and together, we can all help to create an inclusive world.

From challenge, comes change.

About the Author

Bethany Rodgers is MBN’s Project Manager. Her work with the Data Lab has seen hundreds of Msc graduate students placed into summer internships with Scottish tech companies, helping to launch new careers across data science, analytics, data engineering and technology. Her work with CodeClan and the Open University has helped to reshape skills development programmes and increase the accessibility of data science and tech careers for underrepresented people.